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A sunny Auckland Sunday morning greeted me when I pulled open the curtains. Pumping up the bike tyres, I blew the cobwebs away cycling into the CBD from West Auckland. Now it was time to ride a more leisurely pace home and enjoy the scenery.
I left Quay St and with thigh muscles burning and teeth gritted, slowly got to the top of the uphill, designated cycle path on Nelson St and the junction of Pitt and Union St. Across the road on what was once the old Nelson St motorway off-ramp, Te Ara I Whiti’s asphalt blazed bright pink. Which is why it’s better known as the Pink Path. Riding its length to Canada St, the motorway traffic thundering below, I cycle on up to Upper Queen St. A right turn, over the bridge and then I’m heading northwest, leaving the city behind.
I enjoy a drink in the shade of a large tree, its branches spreading wide, and watch black swans glide across the still, spring-fed lake, once the source of early Auckland’s water supply. Children delight, standing on a bridge, in spotting an eel or the gold flash of a fish swimming in the murky depths. Ducks and geese hopeful for food squawk and quack at strollers on the lake path. Beyond the park, which covers 26ha, Auckland Zoo is quiet. In the past, I’ve heard an elephant trumpet or lion roar.
The three-storey goldish-coloured brick building on the corner, which could be mistaken for a grand old English home, was once the Auckland Lunatic Asylum. Built in 1865, it housed close to 1000 patients in the late 19th century. There’s talk of ghosts, with 60 patients dying of typhoid there in 1922. It now houses Unitec.
Just before the white bridge leading up and over to continue alongside the motorway, I take a detour and veer left up Great North Rd a little way, to the Oakley Creek Reserve entrance. A short ride on a narrow, muddy path through lush native bush brings me to Oakley Creek Waterfall. Water rushes over the 6m fall draped with greenery either side. Tucked hidden away surrounded by busy roads and streets of houses and businesses, it is like stepping through a portal and finding yourself in a completely different place. I’ve only discovered it in the last year, having lived in Auckland all my life.
Riding parallel to the North-Western Motorway and battling a bit of a headwind, I pass mangroves and mudflats. It’s a nicer view at high tide when the mud disappears. White-faced heron stalk the flats and occasional information boards tell me of other birds that frequent the shores. Close by the Te Atatu off-ramp, launches and yachts sit at moorings either side of the rippling Whau River which heads out to the Waitemata Harbour. Te Atatu Boat Club’s wharf juts into its depths and colourful dinghies stand on their sterns against each other on a platform at the water’s edge.
I carry on to Henderson and home. Through the tunnel, I enjoy the non-pedalling downhill to an exit marked by a wooden ramp just before the Lincoln Rd interchange. It leads me past the back of Te Atatu South properties with glimpses of Henderson Creek, which becomes Oratia Stream, and native plantings to my right. Walkers share the sometimes twisting, turning path and I slow my pace. Around 18km after leaving the CBD I reach Tui Glen Reserve, the site of New Zealand’s first registered motor camp in 1924.
Once a popular spot, which also included an amusement park, old cabins still stand, although they’re boarded up so a peek inside is impossible. On the side of the stream, a wharf overlooks the brown water. The small red gantry crane that used to put boats in and out of the water is still there. In 1933, the motor camp was advertised as having over 40 different amusements, including swimming, tennis, boating and carpet bowls, as well as free donkey rides for under-12s. Nowadays, there’s a gated camping area for NZMCA members.
From here it’s 10 minutes home.
The Britomart-bound train rattles past. Those on-board should cycle instead. It probably only takes about 10 minutes more ... or longer if they enjoy all that the North-Western cycleway offers.
- Eleanor Hughes